Walkaround -  Piper L-4H Grasshoper s/n 44-79731

Walkaround - Piper L-4H Grasshoper s/n 44-79731
Carl A. Spaatz Field / Reading Regional Airport, Reading, Pennsylvania, USA.
World War II Weekend, June 4-6, 2010.

This walkaround is about a not so common subject: a Piper L-4 Grasshoper. This impecable avis is the L-4H N79731, s/n 44-79731 (cn 12027), photographed while sitting quietly in the French village at the 20th annual World War II Weekend, 2010.

A while after publishing this walkaround, Paul Smith, the owner himself, contacted me and unfolded the whole history behing his Grasshoper:
"44-79731 rolled out of Lock Haven , PA at the Piper plant on 31 May, 1944. It was crated and sent to Newark. NJ on 1 June. On 6 June 44 it sailed aboard the SS Bulkcrude, a D3 tanker and landed at Bristol dock in England on the 4th of July. No word on her until October, 1944 when she was picked up by the artillery unit she initially served with, the 407th FA Group at Villacoublay, France, still in the shipping crate. She was assembled and flew with the 407th in combat until 23 February, 1945 when she was damaged in action in Germany. She was trucked back to Holland, repaired and sent back into combat with the 25th FA Battalion in March, '45. She finished the war in Austria with over 600 combat hours. She was sold surplus to a flight school at Altenrhine, Switzerland on Lake Constance and towed gliders for a living for the next 60 years, getting over 12,500 flight hours. In the 1950s, they fitted her with a 90 hp Continental as a 65 was a little anemic for towing gliders in the Alps. I left it on there as it is half again the horsepower for a 12 pound weight penalty.
Her owner retired and moved to the US and brought her home in 2004, I bought her and spent the next 5 years restoring her. She bears the numbers she did in March of 1945 after the rebuild. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Hope it has gotten a lot of your friends to building L-4 models."

As for the camouflage pattern, Paul adds:
"There is no way of knowing for sure without a period photo. However, the color of the base coat is correct for a faded ANA-613 Olive Drab, which was used after 1943. As you can see I have changed the color of the camouflage color scheme. This was based on my finding an original remnant of L-4 fabric covering last year, as well as getting a set of photos from the owner of an original stabilizer. The base color I had already painted the airplane in was fine, but the camo color was too light. I repainted them last winter.
The numbers are correct, as is the radio code on the fuselage. Before she was wrecked, she wore 82-I, but when she was at Maastricht, Holland for repair, 9th Army Artillery Air Office sent another airplane to the 407th to replace her and that one was painted 82-I. When she came out of the rebuild 2 weeks later, she was assigned to the 25th FA Bn. and painted 82-C. The code 82 is probably XVI Corps, as I noticed several other of their airplanes mentioned in the 9th Army records that bore 82.
Some of the detail markings are left out. I served in a US Army Aviation unit and am familiar with how they operated. We were desperate for aircraft after the Bulge and anything with wings still on it was being repaired and rushed back into the war. I would imagine that they were in a hurry and little things like interior stencilling was omitted.

I tried to do it right."

Thank you Paul. As you see, this is an authentic WWII vet, not just a simple restoration. Enjoy...

General views:


Wing struts:

Landing gear:




I hope you find these photos useful somehow. If you have any interesting information about the history of this aircraft, please drop me a line.

Rato Marczak © 2011